Big, Bigger, Cruise Ships Made in Germany

A shipyard in Germany is in the process of building the largest cruise ship of all time in terms of capacity. The new Global Class is the industry’s answer to the growing cruise market. As fascinating as they are, cruise ships have a problem: They pollute the air like hell.

Update October 10th, 2019: Germany’s Economy Minister Peter Altmeier and the governors of several federal states, including Hamburg, Bremen, Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony and Hither Pomerania, reiterated they wanted ships to use renewable energy while in port. “We want to make port cities cleaner”, Altmeier stated.

Aida is a German cruise line owned by the giant Carnival Corp. in Miami. The brand concentrates on the growing German cruise market, with a fleet of twelve ships. The oldest one, the AIDAcara, was built in 1996 and is the smallest of them all, with a gross tonnage of 38,531 tons. At this moment. she is at anchor at the Greek island Mykonos.

A Different Port Every Few Days

Over the past 22 years, Aida has been ordering and receiving more and more cruise liners. Every time a new delivery came in, that ship was bigger than the last. Delivered in 2003, the AIDAaura accommodates 1,300 passengers. This 42,289 ton ship is embarking on another around-the-world cruise as we speak, from Hamburg to Hamburg, via many exotic places including South Africa, Namibia, Australia, Tasmania, Fiji, Samoa and New Caledonia. That trip will take 117 days.

The cruise line’s tenth ship, the AIDAstella, weighs 71,304 and carries up to 2,700 passengers. This ship, and the six vessels delivered before it, were built by Meyer Werft in Germany. AIDAprima, a rather big one built in 2016 by Mitsubishi, is almost twice as heavy. With 125,572 tons, she is just as big as sibling AIDAperla, which put to sea a year later. These two ships were built for accommodating 3,300 passengers each.

The Allure of the Seas is one of the largest cruise ships at this stage. Photo: Daniel Christensen

Sure, there is nothing better than standing on deck with a girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse, holding a Gin Tonic and watching the Sun set behind the horizon, in a scene which could have been painted by an impressionist or shot by a gifted film director. It is great to reach a different port every few days, and to return to the ship a few hours later with a gazillion shopping bags.

The Flip-Side of the Coin

But the coin has a flip-side: All cruise ships circling the planet on the big oceans need propulsion. And they are huge. That is why they have over-sized Diesel engines, which stink. These dirty powerplants are jeopardizing the cruise industry’s reputation, since the subject was covered by European TV crews.

A German and a French team recently did some filming during cruises and secretly measured the concentration of soot particles aboard two ships. The outcome was not good at all. Those reporters found out that there are spots on cruise ships at which breathing is not healthy. Of course the sea breeze blows away those Diesel clouds all the time. But when they put in, things get worse.

The Queen Victoria is property of Cunard. Photo: Raimsvingea

Around 9,000 ships, mostly freighters, arrive at the Port of Hamburg every year. It has 43 kilometers of quay. Last year alone, 136.5 million tons of cargo crossed the quay walls in Hamburg, and thousands of cruise ship passengers boarded their vessels.

Big Polluters

While older Diesel cars with higher emissions are now banned from parts of Hamburg’s city center, cruise ships are not. They enter the port at ‘Landungsbrücken’ or elsewhere, close to the city center. And one single vessel pollutes the air a million times more than a Diesel car. All in all, shipping is responsible for 25 percent of the total pollutant load in the northern German city.

This also means that if ships were cleaner, the police would not have to stop older Diesel cars, in order to stay under the boundary value regarding Diesel particles. Of course, the problem of pollution caused by the enormous Diesel engines built into cruise ships also affects other port cities, such as Barcelona or Venice.

Chancellor Angela Merkel visits ‘MV Werften’ at times. The shipyard is located on her turf. Photo: MV Werften

The Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (‘Naturschutzbund Deutschland e.V.’, or NABU) in Berlin publishes an annual ranking on the environmental burden caused by cruise ships. The organization lists the 75 most popular cruise liners on a regular basis and gives them four green or red tiny screw propellers, depending on how dirty or clean they are. The criteria included are the amount of soot particles, sulfur, nitric oxide and carbon dioxide those ships blow out of their rather large chimneys.

Germans Cleaner than Others

Dirty, dirtier, cruise ships. Most cruise ships are dirty. That’s the bad news the latest NABU ranking conveys. At the same time, there might be a tiny light at the end of the tunnel.

German cruise lines, such as Aida or Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, are still cleaner than others, since some of their ships are equipped with filters designed to limit the emission of hazardous substances to a certain extent. The French cruise line Ponant got a slightly positive ranking as well. All other cruise line giants, including Royal Caribbean Carnival and Cunard, got bad rankings.

Size is not what matters here. The Crystal Endeavor is an icebreaker. Photo: MV Werften

Since at least cruise lines based in Germany are beginning to understand there will be trouble ahead if they do not do anything to decrease the pollution they are causing, they are moving in the right direction.

Running on Natural Gas

Really good news is coming from Aida. In December, the company took delivery of a new vessel called AIDAnova. It is the largest ship in Aida’s fleet, with a weight of 180,000 tons. This giant of the seas accommodates up to 6,600 passengers. The point is that AIDAnova, which is leaving Corsica at this moment, will be running on Liquefied Natural Gas (LPG). It is a lot healthier for the environment than Diesel.

In some countries, including Finland, modern technologies will be mandatory soon, meaning Aida is doing itself a big favor by ordering a ship like AIDAnova, which will have two sister vessels within a few years. But the Americans do not seem to want to see what all the fuss is about. The U.S.-based Cruise Lines International Association says the ranking published by NABU was neither scientific, nor was it comprehensible. (Note: Article continues below ‘Related Posts’ teasers.)

Even dirty ships could at least decrease the Diesel clouds they are blowing into the atmosphere. For example, they could be connected to the grid while in port instead of using their dirty engines as generators. The problem is that electricity generated ashore is more than three times as expensive.

Cruise Ships and Freighters

NABU now insists on law changes. A few months back, the German-language ‘Welt’ daily quoted Malte Siegert, a NABU scientist in Hamburg. “We demand a ban on ships which do not use the existing electricity facilities ashore”, he says.

The problem is not just connected to the 400 cruise ships which sail the oceans, but also the 50,000 freighters. At the same time, while in port, cruise ships do more damage because most of them keep their engines running 24 hours a day.

On NABU’s ranking lists, even very prominent ships such as Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 (location right now: Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada) or Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas (leaving the Dominican Republic) get bad ratings on a regular basis. The latter ocean carrier took delivery of its latest giant, the Spectrum of the Seas (location today: off the coast of China), in April. It has a tonnage of 169,379. The next one is being completed right now. In a year from now, the Odyssey of the Seas will be sailing the seven seas this planet offers.

No Schettino in Sight

More ocean giants will be delivered next year, including the Costa Firenze, which will be given to Costa Crociere, a division of Carnival Cooperation, in October of 2020. This one will offer room for 5,200 passengers and take big trips from Italian ports such as Trieste. This huge vessel is scheduled to take Chinese vacationers around the world as well. Captain Schettino, who wrecked the Costa Concordia in 2012, will not be seen on the bridge.

The Enchanted Princess, yet another big one, will be delivered to Princess Cruises, another division of Carnival Cooperation, in June. Celebrity Apex is an additional enormous ocean liner which will spread both fascination an Diesel clouds starting next year.

The largest of them all, in terms of capacity, is Global 1. It is being built at ‘MV Werften’ in the German harbor towns of Wismar and Rostock. Global 1 got its name from the new class it represents: Global Class. It is the first cruise ship with a capacity of 9,500 passengers. They will be attended by a crew of 2,500, meaning up to 12,000 people will be aboard the giant once it is ready to sail the seas.

Unimaginable Proportions

In order to transport that many people ashore, 200 buses would be needed. For flying them, 20 Airbus A380 jumbo jets would only suffice if the aircraft were configured to carry more passengers than they usually do. In short: Global 1 will be a swimming city of unimaginable proportions.

In March of 2018, the construction commenced. Back then, the CEO of Genting Hong Kong, the owner of ‘MV Werften’ shipyards, Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, pushed a button which made a machine cut the first piece of steel for the giant ship. Due to its size, the company decided to involve two of its German dockyards. Wismar is the official production site though. This is where the ship will be assembled and completed.

Global 1 will not just be huge, but also smart. ‘MV Werften’ says artificial intelligence will be on board. Face and speech recognition devices will make sure only booked passengers board the ship. Robots will be deployed too, so that the crew can concentrate on the most important tasks.

Made in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

Anyone who thinks more Global Class ships are probably being planned is absolutely right. These cruise liners are actually being built for the Asian market, where an occupancy of up to four passengers per cabin is considered normal. Global 1 and its future sister ships will be equipped with authentic Asian restaurants, fast food places, spas, theme parks and lots of shops.

These cruise ships will have 28 large lifts each, as well as countless escalators, which will connect the public areas. ‘MV Werften’ is convinced all ships belonging to the new class will accommodate the enormous number of passengers they are being built for without problems.

In the German province of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, ‘MV Werften’ is an important employer. The number of workers and staffers has almost doubled in the past two years. A total of 2,600 people are working for the company at this stage, in Wismar, Rostock and Stralsund.

Merkel at ‘MV Werften’

In terms of gross tonnage, Global 1 will only be the fifth-largest cruise ship on the planet. The largest vessel circling the seven seas right now, the Symphony of the Seas (moored in the Caribbean at this moment) owned by Royal Caribbean, has a gross tonnage of 228,081, while Global 1 will have 204,000. On the other hand, the Symphony accommodates only about two thirds of the passengers Global 1 will be capable of taking to nice places around the world.

At this stage, Royal Caribbean owns the four largest ships. They are the Symphony of the Seas, the Harmony of the Seas, the Allure of the Seas and the Oasis of the Seas. Yes, they are enormous. But soon, Global 1 passengers will be standing on deck, laughing at them. Or maybe the other way around, because Global 1 will be pretty crowded when it is filled to full capacity, while Royal Caribbeans ships do offer a lot of room.

‘MV Werften’ is extremely busy with smaller projects too. A few months ago, a guest by the name of Angela Merkel, who happens to be Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, visited their Stralsund shipyard for the keel laying of the Crystal Endeavor.

The Icebreaker

That ship has a capacity of 200 passengers only, since it is part of a different category. She is an icebreaker and an expedition yacht in one, meaning this one will not head towards St. Tropez or the Caribbean, but rather the North Pole and other spots of that kind.

Apart from the fact that Crystal Endeavor will undoubtedly be a nice ship, Chancellor Merkel’s visit at the shipyard had another reason: ‘Stralsund Nordvorpommern Rügen’ is her constituency. She needs to show herself up there once in a while.

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